(Washington, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced legislation to protect the environmental integrity of Plum Island.
The bill would permanently repeal an outdated and misguided law requiring the General Service Administration (GSA) to abandon its traditional process for disposing of excess federal property and mandate sale of the island to the highest bidder. Without that law, the GSA would be allowed to transfer government land such as Plum Island to another federal agency, state or local government, or private steward and would allow for appropriate and due consideration of all stakeholders. Congress mandated the sale in order to help pay for construction of the new bio-lab in Kansas. However, legislation since then successfully included money for the lab, so the sale of the island is no longer necessary.
Blumenthal said: “The Plum Island mandate is outdated and wrongheaded and must be permanently repealed. Auctioning this island to the highest bidder would imperil a uniquely pristine habitat—environmental destruction that could not be undone. I have seen firsthand the island’s natural beauty, and am committed preserving this ecological treasure.”
Schumer said: “Plum Island is an ecological treasure and the location of an important lab; we should preserve it rather than auction it off to the highest bidder for development. This Senate bill is the only legislation that will change current law and prevent Plum Island from being sold to a private developer in perpetuity. It would be a mistake and lost opportunity to rip apart this unique 840-acre environmental setting, destroying the habitat of the endangered species that live there, and that’s why the Senate should pass this bill.”
Gillibrand said: “Plum Island is an important habitat for migratory birds and endangered species and should continue to be owned by the public. I strongly support keeping Plum Island as a federal property and protecting it as a wildlife refuge, which is why I am an original cosponsor of Senator Blumenthal’s bill and have been working with my colleagues for years to prevent the sale of Plum Island. This legislation would finally prevent Plum Island from being auctioned off to the highest bidder and preserve it for future generations.”
Murphy said: “Plum Island is a rare breed—one of the last, almost completely undeveloped islands remaining in Long Island Sound. Its ecological value is extraordinary. If developers were to get their hands on the island, we would lose this gem forever. We won’t stop fighting until Plum Island is permanently protected.”
The environmental significance of Plum Island is remarkable. In the 2006 Long Island Sound Study, Connecticut state agencies in collaboration with New York and federal agencies as well as environmental organizations recognized the ecological and recreational importance of Plum Island as a Long Island Sound Stewardship Site. In addition, GSA’s own Final Environmental Impact Statement concluded that any development of Plum Island could have a major impact on land use, air quality, water resources and biological resources in the area. The legislation allows GSA to transfer Plum Island to a federal agency, state/local government, or private steward that would protect the environmental integrity of the area.